Death Valley National Park offers good winter camping weather
In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of Death Valley scenery and campgrounds. In the photos, you'll see pictures of the Texas Springs, Sunset and Furnace Creek campgrounds...three of the most popular places to camp at Death Valley National Park.
Where can you find good winter camping in Southern California?
Well, the answer is MANY different places. Because of Southern California's mild winter climate, even beach camping remains popular here year-round. And yet...not ALL of Southern California has a mild climate every month of the year, including the region's desert areas. For example, in Palm Springs, 100+ days are more common than UN-common in the summertime. And, other parts of Southern California's deserts get even hotter...and nowhere in the entire USA is the heat more extreme than at Death Valley National Park!
In fact, Death Valley is home to the highest-recorded temperature in the entire Western Hemisphere--134 degrees F! Another fun fact about Death Valley is that it's also home to the lowest point in North America...a whopping 282 feet below sea level in the park's Badwater Basin area!
Wintertimes, however, are quite pleasant in Death Valley National Park. The months between October and April are when all of the park's facilities are in operation and the most tourists visit. The pictures on this page were taken in the month of March. As you can see, the sky was a brilliant blue...and quite cloudless. Temperatures reached into the low 80's F, making outdoor activities comfortable to enjoy. Nights dipped down into the 50's, meaning that there was a 30-degree span...which isn't unusual at Death Valley. Pleasant days give way to nights when you'll be glad to hunker down into a nice warm sleeping bag!
On this page, you'll discover some of Death Valley's most popular campgrounds, along with other activities that are available for you when you visit Death Valley National Park. And, if you'd like to find other good Southern California campgrounds that offer good fall, winter and spring camping, please visit our Southern California Camping page.
Death Valley's Furnace Creek area
The Texas Springs, Sunset and Furnace Creek campgrounds are located here
In the Google Custom Map above, you can see the 3 campgrounds in Death Valley's Furnace Creek area pinpointed. Pinpoints also mark the turnoffs from Rte 190 that you'll need to take to reach them. You may also use the following link to view the official Death Valley Park Map. There is a special inset showing the detail of the Furnace Creek area (on the upper right hand side of the map.)
Death Valley NP is large and nearly empty....
...but a busy hub of activity exists at Furnace Creek.
At the Furnace Creek area, you'll find Death Valley's two lodges; the upscale Furnace Creek Inn, where prices begin around $350 per night, and fine dining awaits those with delicate palates. The Furnace Creek Ranch motel serves families and others with more moderate budgets, with rates in the $135-$200 area.
But, Death Valley is a land of extremes...and $14/night camping can also be found here, as well! Because Furnace Creek is also home to several restaurants & stores, plus the post office, visitor's center, Borax Museum and lush golf course, then most park visitors end up here at one point or another.
The park's 3 most popular campgrounds are also located at the Furnace Creek HQ's, so campers can take advantage of the facilities. Away from Furnace Creek, it's difficult to find restaurants, WiFi, restrooms and other creature comforts. So, it's only logical that the 3 Furnace Creek camping areas are the most-used in the park.
Most camping grounds at Death Valley National Park do NOT accept reservations. There are enough campgrounds in the park to seemingly accept everyone, so it's probably unnecessary.
However, for those who like to be secure...especially in the park's peak months of December, January and February...the Furnace Creek Campground DOES accept reservations for part of the year. Between October and April, you can make reservations ahead of time to secure your spot. But, if you can't get a space on the day of your choice, there are still plenty of campgrounds available with walk-up registration.
To your right, you're viewing a typical campsite in the Texas Springs Campground, one of the 3 camping areas at Furnace Creek. We enjoyed Texas Springs because it's located up a ways on a mountain, and enjoys a nice view of the valley below it. Texas Springs accepts all types of camping, from tents to RV's.
To your left, you can see a picture of the Sunset Campground at Death Valley. The Sunset camping ground is for RV's only, and you can see why just from looking at this photo! It's a parking lot-style camp, where each camper pulls into a spot lined up next to all the others. When it's crowded, you won't have much elbow room here...but when there are less visitors, you can park your rig so that you'll leave some space between you and the next group of campers.
To your right just below, you can see a typical camping space in the Furnace Creek Campground. Both tents and RVs are welcome. The Furnace Creek Campground is a favorite because it's the closest to the visitor's center...as well as the park's restaurants, golf course and gift shops. Of the 3 campgrounds in the Furnace Creek Headquarters area, it's the only campground that's open year-round.
Here's a summary of the features these 3 campgrounds have to offer:
ALL 3 OFFER: Restroom facilities with flush toilets and running water; graded camping sites with a dirt/gravel surface; paved streets through the camping loops; RV dump station. NO REFUNDS are given for any of the campgrounds, so the park suggests that you pay for your camping space one day at a time.
Furnace Creek offers: Close walking distance to Visitor's Center and other facilities; flat walking distance to these facilities; fire rings and picnic tables; reservations accepted during the most popular months of the year for visitors. Camping fees for the Furnace Creek range from $12 during the "off season" (May thru September) and $18 during the "busy season" (October thru April.)
Sunset Campground offers: RV-only camping from October to April only; no fire pits nor picnic tables. Campground is completely level. The Sunset Camp fee is $12/night.
Texas Springs campground offers: RV/tent camping spaces with picnic table and fire pit; elevation at sea level...which gives it somewhat of a "mountain" view; open October thru April; nightly fee, $14.
Death Valley camping tips and suggestions
Tent campers should bring padding! A plain dirt surface would be more comfortable...but unfortunately, lots of gravel dots the ground here. Sleeping without a pad underneath you would be unthinkable for anyone except those who wish to brag about being tough!
Dress in "layers": There's a 25 to 30 degree difference in temperature between day & night at Death Valley...which means that pleasant daytime temperatures give way to chilly evenings. And, conversely, pleasant evening temperatures lead into hot afternoons. You'll need to be prepared for both, then.
Camping spots have little character here. Sooner or later, you're going to notice that Death Valley NP has lots of wide open space. And, if you're like our family, you'll wonder why they didn't use some of it to create larger campsites. It's not that the Death Valley camping sites are super-squishy, because they're pretty normal-sized. But most camping spots have nothing between the spaces...no bushes, thickets, etc. So, unless you come when all the sites aren't taken...so you can spread out & leave empty spaces between you and the next party...it can SEEM as if your campsite is rather small.
Don't count on moving to the Furnace Creek Inn or Furnace Creek Ranch Motel if you change your mind about camping. You may certainly do that...IF there are rooms available. But, the Inn and motel tend to fill up quickly and may be completely sold out.
OTHER DEATH VALLEY CAMPING GROUNDS: After the camping areas at Furnace Creek, two other popular campgrounds are the Mesquite Spring camp (near the Scotty's Castle Visitor's Center & Museum) and the Stovepipe Wells campground (near the Stovepipe Wells Village, which offers a limited amount of visitor's services & food.) In addition, there are several other campgrounds at Death Valley which are in areas farther away from the main park attractions. You may use the following link to view a complete list of all the Death Valley campgrounds. And, here's the National Park Service's printable PDF map of Death Valley where you'll find each campground's location marked on the map with the symbol of a tent. It may surprise you that some of the campground elevations range clear up to 8,000+ feet...and are closed in the wintertime! Such is Death Valley, the land of contrasts!
Things to do near the 3 campgrounds at Furnace Creek
In the slides above, you can see pictures of the facilities available in Death Valley's "Furnace Creek" area, including a popular golf course (which bears the distinction of being the golf course at the lowest elevation in the entire USA!)
You probably have your list of "must-do's" in mind already, or you wouldn't be planning a camping trip to Death Valley in the first place. Most people either want to see what the hottest, driest & lowest point in North America looks like with their own eyes...or want bragging rights that they've been there...or both! Death Valley is both an oddity, as well as an excellent example of geological wonders & climate extremes, all wrapped up into one.
The Death Valley NP Visitor's Center has interpretive exhibits that will help you discover hidden details in the things you're viewing at the park. This is where you'll pick up an education about the region.
In addition to the Visitor's Center exhibits, you should know ahead of time that there are vista points within the park that have interpretive signs to explain what you're viewing. Plus, there are guided ranger walks that you may find interesting, as well.
You or your kids may learn about the Old West while you're at Death Valley, as well. From the Furnace Springs Stables, you can get in on horseback rides...or even carriage and wagon rides...that can bring out the inner cowpoke in you. The Borax Museum in Furnace Springs has preserved Old West artifacts that were used in the valley in days gone by, and is another place you won't want to miss if you'd like to get a feel for the Old West era.
Recreational activities include bike rentals and a lush golf course...along with souvenir-hunting in the gift shops at Furnace Springs, of course. Swimming in the pools at the Inn or Ranch motel are for guests only; however, there is a pool at Stovepipe Wells where campers can go swimming for a small fee.
Outside from Furnace Springs, the most popular attraction at Death Valley is Scotty's Castle, which was formerly a residence. Probably the most important thing that you should know ahead of time about the Scotty's Castle tour is that you can't just arrive any time you want & look around. Tours proceed on a set schedule throughout the day, and the tour time you want might be booked-up. If taking this tour is important to you, then you should either pre-purchase your tickets online or head to Scotty's Castle early in the day before you make your other plans. Here's the Scotty's Castle Tour Information page of the Death Valley NP website so you can discover current prices and tour times.
Driving to Death Valley
Driving from Las Vegas to Death Valley: It takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley, depending on what your starting or ending points might be. There are two main ways to get to Death Valley from Las Vegas: US 95 and Nevada 160.
From southern Las Vegas to Death Valley: From I-15, you should take the Blue Diamond exit and head west. You'll pass a number of busy shopping plazas & may run into a little traffic before you leave town, but nothing too harrowing. Eventually, the road whittles down from a wide boulevard to a 2-lane highway (Nevada Rte 160) which passes through either some interesting scenery...or some dull brown desert, depending on your opinion. Hopefully, you'll think it's interesting scenery, because if you don't like the route from Vegas to Death Valley, you probably won't won't like Death Valley, either...since it's just an extreme version of the very same type of scenery. Here is a driving map from southern Las Vegas to Death Valley, leaving town on Blue Diamond Rd. Also, here's a PDF map of routes from Las Vegas to Death Valley that you can print up and take with you. On this map, the route marked "Shortest Route" is the one we've just described. However, there's a 2nd route you'll also see on this PDF map to Death Valley...the US Hwy 95 route.
Driving from northern Las Vegas to Death Valley: You should get onto US 95...which is a busy freeway while it's running through metro Las Vegas. Once you're out of town, it whittles down to a 2-lane road...and traffic becomes extremely light. You should turn south at Lathrop Wells on Nevada Rt 373 towards Death Valley Junction...at which point you'll pick up Route 190 & follow the signs to the park. To view the complete route, here's a Las Vegas to Death Valley map on the DistanceBetweenCities.net website.
Route from San Bernardino, Calif to Death Valley: If you're familiar with traveling from LA or San Diego to Las Vegas, which many people are, then you may be most comfortable visiting Death Valley NP via the I-15 route from Southern California. You would proceed to San Bernardino as if you're heading to Las Vegas...and then continue northwards through Victorville and Barstow...and onwards on Interstate 15 to the little town of Baker, home of the World's Tallest Thermometer. (We mention the thermometer because it's a landmark that's difficult to miss!) From Baker, you should turn northwards on CA Rt 127 towards Death Valley Junction...where you'll pick up State Rte 190 towards Furnace Creek in Death Valley. Here's a link where you can view a Google map from San Bernardino to Death Valley (with the route marked in blue) from the DistanceBetweenCities.net website.
Lancaster, CA to Death Valley: If you would like to enter Death Valley a different way from those already mentioned...well, there's still one more route. From northern LA County, it's easy to reach the western entrance to the Death Valley NP. This 3rd route lets you enter from US 395, and it actually offers you a different experience from the other routes. Why? Because the little town of Olancha (where you'll make the turn from US 395 towards Death Valley's western entrance) sits at an elevation of 3658 feet above sea level. It can be chilly in Olancha when it's quite warm at Furnace Springs in the heart of Death Valley. Your descent down to the low-lying floor of Death Valley, therefore, will be more dramatic than coming in from the east side. Our family enjoyed seeing the differences...and maybe yours will, too. Here's a map from Lancaster, CA to the western entrance of Death Valley, and then on to the Furnace Creek Headquarters in the heart of the park.